It’s the holiday season – that special time of year when most nights end with family gathered around the fireplace or wood stove. These evenings are usually peaceful and relaxing – except when the age-old argument breaks out again: Who can build the best fire?

We know that everyone has opinions about building a fire – and what’s the best way to do it – but there is actually more than one way to get a fire going. Put a pause on the bickering, and let the team here at Big Ash walk you through the different methods of fire building.

And when you need to schedule your next appointment for chimney maintenance or look into getting a new heating appliance, call Big Ash at 585-638-0300 or reach out to us online. We’d love to speak with you!

First Step: Preparing the Fireplace

Before you can get down to business, you have to make sure your fireplace is ready to go. Create a quick checklist to cover the basics for safe fire building: 

  • Clean the firebox. If there’s any leftover ash or bits of firewood from the last fire, clear it out with a hand brush. (Leaving behind a thin layer of ash is fine and can help in building a new fire.)
  • Get the firewood ready. Bring in a bundle of firewood. You might not use all of it, but it’s easier to put a few logs back than it is to run out to grab more when you’re trying to get the fire started. We recommend using seasoned hardwoods, like oak, maple, or hickory.
  • Gather tinder and kindling. Old newspapers, twigs, and small sticks are great aids for fire building. If you have a dryer, you can even use lint from the lint trap!
  • Open the damper. Nothing can ruin a night by the fire quite like a room full of smoke making everyone cough. Open the damper to allow smoke to safely exit through the chimney.
  • Put the grate in place. An iron grate keeps the wood together and promotes proper airflow, which helps the wood burn more efficiently.
  • Warm up the flue. As you wouldn’t try to prepare a prime rib for your New Year’s Eve feast without preheating the oven first, don’t try to start a fire without preheating the flue. Roll up a newspaper, light one end, and hold that end towards the flue opening for a few minutes. This reduces the risk of backdrafting.

Best Methods To Build a Fire

As we mentioned before, there are multiple ways to build a fire. Don’t declare one approach as the clear-cut best just yet – explore some different techniques to get a feel of what works best for you. The following are a few of the methods we use the most: 

  • The top-down method. Also called the upside-down method, the top-down method is really simple. Start by placing the largest logs directly on the grate. Top that base with slightly smaller logs, allowing logs to get smaller and smaller as you move up. Finish off the pile with the smallest pieces of wood, put some kindling and tinder at the very top of the stack, and then light the tinder. The fire will burn downward with each layer igniting as it goes.
  • The teepee method. As you probably expected, the purpose of the teepee method is to build a log structure that resembles a small teepee. Put a bunch of small sticks, leaves, or other kindling in the center of the grate, then arrange larger sticks around the center to get the teepee or cone shape (but be sure to leave an opening at the top for air circulation). Light the kindling in the center, and the fire will catch on the smaller sticks – and eventually engulf the larger ones.
  • The log cabin method. Get two of your larger logs and place them horizontally on the grate so that they’re parallel to each other (but leave a little space between them). Add two more similarly sized logs vertically to form a square or rectangular shape with all four logs. There should be a good bit of space at the center of the logs – fill it with kindling and light it up.
  • The crisscross method. Have you ever played Jenga? Get some logs that are similar in size and line them up next to each other. Grab some more logs and place them on top of this base, but place them in the opposite direction. Continue building layers of logs, alternating the direction of each layer so that they create a crisscross pattern. Add kindling and tinder on top, and light your fire.

Tips for Fireplace & Wood Stove Safety

original infographic for fireplace safety tips
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Don’t ever leave a fire unattended.
  • Install a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector in the room where the fireplace or wood stove is, and change the batteries every six months.
  • Only use dry seasoned firewood.
  • Keep a three-foot distance between the fireplace or wood stove and the furniture.
  • Make sure the fire is completely extinguished when you’re done.
  • Use a metal container with a tight-fitting lid for ash disposal and place it at least 10 feet from the home..
  • Book chimney inspections and cleanings at least once a year.

Trust Big Ash for Your Chimney & Stove Needs

As the holiday season continues, we hope you’re getting the most out of your wood stove or fireplace. If you’re not able to because your fireplace is out of commission, reach out to Big Ash! We’ll be there to get your chimney system back into shape. Call us today at 585-638-0300 or schedule your appointment online.